The long way out
Aktobe Travel Blog› entry 73 of 86 › view all entries
We arrived at the airport after 40 hours on the train. 20 in 'Platzkarta', which normally means about 6-8 people, stacked in short beds, in the space of a storage room with no aircon. In our case it meant about 10-12 nosy kasakhs in the same amount of space, all starring at us for 18 hours and demanding to know what everything costs in the UK. The second train journey however was a treat as we traveled in Kupee (4 people in a small aircon'd room) and made friends with people around us. Ardak and Albanu -2 young women- spoke fluent english and helped us to communicate with our room comrade, a grouf oil worker. Most people in this part of kasakhstan seem to work for international oil companies and it seems to be the absolutely only reason 3 out of the 4 western kasakh cities exist.
In Aktau we arrived to a beach of broken bottles, crumbling gettho-style houses and, already disintegrating, new builds that no one can afford to move into. Surprisingly enough we also arrived to a rock festival full of strolling families and bouncy castles and in lack of better company the band invited us to their room for pre-performance drinking. For post-preformance drinking we left them to their gathering of young groupies and went home to bed.
In the airport, in a big comfortable room I finally felt something akin to sentiment over leaving kasakhstan. Around us the steppe stretched in all directions and sadness of flying out of a country I really didn't get on with struck me. I looked out at the beauty and the calmness of the sunset. I knew it would be pleasant out there, the villages would wake out of their midday slumber and everywhere little promenades would be busy. At the same time it is so deceptive. After 10 am the heat will become oppressive. The steppe then is not beautiful but an area that could quite easily kill you if you walk out onto it alone and unprepared. I've lost track of the amounts of water we would drink and tip over our heads in order to stay cool.
But I felt unsettled to leave a place that no doubt is fantastic somewhere, a place that someone really loves and a place that other travelers have found inspiring when we just couldn't find it's magic. I felt like we must have misjudged it, overlooked something...
Eastern Kasakhstan had everything I like; Here the villages were vibrant, there were vast green hills, snowcapped mountains and it is a stone throw away from cities, world famous for their beauty. Had we stayed there I would have been in a different frame of mind in the airport. My sentiment would have been for leaving a fabulous place, for finishing another great part of the journey not for feeling I misunderstood the whole place. But then, if we just stayed in the nice places it wouldn't have been a journey round the world anymore....